Federal Liberal candidate Judy Higginbotham has fired a volley against the Conservatives and South Surrey-White Rock riding candidate Dianne Watts for a recently announced tip-line component of the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.
The act, which received royal assent in June, amends the Refugee Protection Act and the Civil Marriage Act with the avowed intent of preventing polygamy, child marriage and taking children or non-consenting adults out of Canada for forced marriages abroad and removing any defence for so-called ‘honour killings’.
A tip line and an integrated RCMP task force to step up enforcement of the act was announced last Friday as part of the Conservative platform, but has received criticism from political opponents for the potential of opening the door to abuses and malicious false reporting.
In a media release this week, Higginbotham took aim at what she termed the creation of a “1-800-Tattle-Tale line.”
“I’m a Liberal, but first and foremost a Canadian,” she said in her statement. “These fear and scare tactics have no place in our politics. The Conservatives calling for a citizen-based call centre to encourage reporting on one another is absurd.
“Is this really a long-term crime solution? Sounds more like a chapter out of Orwell’s novel, 1984.”
The Conservatives’ announcement of the tip line included a quote from incumbent MP Kellie Leitch (Simcoe-Grey):
“While these may be uncomfortable topics for (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau and (NDP Leader) Thomas Mulcair,” Leitch said, “Conservatives believe that we should be clear about our fundamental Canadian values.
“Canadians overwhelmingly agree with our position – and that includes immigrants – who find these practices despicable and want the Canadian government to protect women who are victims of such violence.”
Higginbotham told Peace Arch News that mechanisms are already in place for reporting crimes or serious concerns about abuse taking place on Canadian soil.
“The best tip line ever is to call 911… I certainly do not support another tip line, another burden on the RCMP,” she said, adding that she considers the move a “wedge issue” created by the Conservatives to divide residents from different cultures.
“One of the best ways to educate ourself on other cultures is to get to know our neighbours.”
But Watts responded that the move is simply “another tool” for the RCMP in a longtime battle against violent abuse of women and children at home and abroad.
“We have a record of being international leaders in dealing with such issues as child exploitation and human trafficking,” she said. “This coincides with our overall record of what we are trying to do… of bringing attention to all these things.”
Noting she was once part of a task force dealing with such issues on a local level, Watts said she is not concerned about the potential for malicious misuse of such a tip line.
“We can deal with a hypothetical situation but if, at the end of the day, calling an RCMP tip line helps a single child and helps us take care of them, then it’s well worth it,” Watts said.
NDP candidate Pixie Hobby has also taken issue with what she has described as “fearmongering” by the Conservatives, noting she has heard from many people during doorstep campaigning that the approach has only added to a “strong anyone-but-Harper sentiment.”